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The best books to gift this year – The Globe and Mail

The perfect gift for every type of reader on your list, from the design aficionado to the history buff
The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach by Sarah Stodola (HarperCollins)
This interrogation of seaside resorts and the beach-tourism industry considers the history, evolution and life cycle of tourist playgrounds and the impact they have on the local economy, population and landscape that posits a more thoughtful approach to travel.
Epic Road Trips of the Americas by Lonely Planet (Lonely Planet)
Road trips remain the most popular form of travel in a postpandemic world and Lonely Planet’s inaugural guide to driving the United States, South America and Canada adds tips and seasonal recommendations to the maps and inspiring itineraries.
Kinfolk Islands by John Burns (Artisan Books)
Lush photographs and essays on island getaways from Iran to the Caribbean make for heady armchair escapism.
Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis by Annie Proulx (Scribner)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of The Shipping News laments the wetlands degradation around the world (including Canada’s Hudson Bay lowlands) in eloquent, rousing prose that conveys both the beauty of these habitats and the ecological consequences.
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Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by Azar Nafisi (HarperCollins)
The bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran uses the literary device of letters (to her late father) to ruminate on how reading helps us build empathy and resist tyranny.
A Factotum in the Book Trade by Marius Kociejowski (Biblioasis)
Poet and former London antiquarian bookseller recalls his life between the covers, from growing up in rural Ontario to his journey among eccentric buyers, sellers and other obsessives.
Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers by Emma Smith (Knopf)
An Oxford professor explores the varied history and mystery of the beloved physical objects Stephen King once declared “a uniquely portable magic.”
Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion by Louise Willder (Oneworld Publications)
The long-time Penguin Books copywriter assembles an entertaining analysis of the language used on books to entice readers that also reveals secrets of publishing hype.
Spine Poems: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse for Book Lovers by Annette Dauphin
These spreads of found verse from the random (and not-so-random) arrangements of book titles are a bibliophile’s delight, and will add many to your must-read pile.
How to Read Now: Essays by Elaine Castillo (Viking)
A well-informed essay collection that’s deeply skeptical of literary culture and, for example, explodes clichés of the “representation matters” rhetoric (like the systemic misreading of minority writers) and urges greater context and depth of diversity.
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Nerd: Adventures in Fandom from This Universe to the Multiverse by Maya Phillips (Atria)
The New York Times critic-at-large analyses a high-low of comics, anime, superheroes and other fandoms (like Harry Potter and Douglas Adams) in these engaging, accessible essays.
Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke (Avid Reader Press)
From the Victorian bustle and Josephine Baker to Jane Fonda’s aerobics through hip-hop and Kim Kardashian, the Radiolab reporter’s ingenious cultural study charts the changing symbolism, racial prejudices and evolving ideas around the female body.
Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure and an Unfinished Revolution by Nona Willis Aronowitz (Plume)
Sex, politics and memoir commingle in Teen Vogue sex columnist (and daughter of rock critic and radical feminist writer Ellen Willis) Aronowitz’s attempt to make sense of feminism’s failures alongside her sexual self-discovery.
Status and Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change by W. David Marx (Viking)
A treatise on cultural trends that examines the choices people make every day about how to dress and eat and what entertainment to consume and relates it all to status-seeking – without losing sight of the racial, legal and economic inequities bound up with status.
Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now edited by Jeff Yang, et al. (HarperCollins)
This illuminating book, years in the making by a gaggle of A-list culture journos, highlights the history, milestones and evolving Asian cultural identity – from The Joy Luck Club to Crazy Rich Asians.
Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller (Verso Books)
The irreverent titular podcast hosts explore the vilification of gay individuals in history and reframe the conversation about queer lives.
Sweat: A History of Exercise by Bill Hayes (Bloomsbury)
Having previously written about the poetics of sleep (Insomnia City), Hayes once again mixes personal anecdote (including swimming with his late partner, Oliver Sacks) and philosophical inquiry into historical research on the modern obsession with exercise.
Keanu Reeves: Most Triumphant, The Movies & Meaning of an Irrepressible Icon by Alex Pappademas
Because sometimes you need a noted cultural critic’s funny and sophisticated deep-dive into the life and career of the internet’s boyfriend to make sense of it all.
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If Walls Could Speak: My Life in Architecture by Moshe Safdie (Grove Atlantic)
The acclaimed Israeli-Canadian architect behind the Habitat 67, the Vancouver Public Library, the National Gallery in Ottawa and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands reflects on the experiences and challenges of his career and the role architecture should play in society.
Revolution: The History of Turntable Design by Gideon Schwartz (Phaidon)
Analog enthusiasts and audiophiles alike will drool over the stunning devices on display in this sumptuous book featuring inventive brands like Bang & Olufsen, Braun and Technics who have shaped the cool industrial design of the turntable (and vinyl technology).
West Coast North: Interiors Designed for Living by Julia Dilworth (Figure 1 Publishing)
Projects by local design luminaries such as Leckie Studio, PlaidFox and Kelly Deck are compiled by a former editor of Western Living in this celebration of Pacific Northwest style that will inspire design envy (and a bit of redecorating).
Football: Designing the Beautiful Game by Thomas Turner, et al. (The Design Museum)
For those who didn’t make it to the London Design Museum’s exhibition, this hefty accompanying catalog unpicks how design has shaped the world’s most popular sport.
Engineering in Plain Sight: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Constructed Environment by Grady Hillhouse (No Starch Press)
From the creator of popular YouTube channel Practical Engineering, this book demystifies the infrastructure of nearly every part of the built environment and will transforms your perspective of infrastructure even on a familiar route.
Context and Content – The Memoir of a Fortunate Architect by A.J. Diamond (Dundurn Press)
Before he died in October, the South African-born Canadian architect behind watershed affordable residential complex Beverley Place and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts wrote this memoir that focuses as much on his personal journey as the notable Toronto spaces he shaped.
A-Z of Record Shop Bags: 1940s to 1990s by Johnny Trunk, et al. (FUEL Publishing)
The latest in FUEL’s series examining overlooked aspects of our collective past features nearly 600 striking bags from entrepreneurial shops of vinyl’s heyday.
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My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings edited by Zosia Mamet (Penguin Books)
Likened to a church cookbook if the congregations were entirely celebrities, actress Mamet (Girls, The Flight Attendant) gathers intimate memories about food – with personal recipes – from the likes of David Sedaris, Patti Smith and Rosie Perez.
A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm (House of Anansi Press)
Chisholm’s memoir of his hellish time as a Parisian waiter is a millennial homage to predecessors such as Anthony Bourdain, a Down and Out in Paris and London of the 21st century gig economy.
Recipe by Lynn Z. Bloom (Bloomsbury)
Bloom’s fascinating entry in the Object Lessons series of slim books about the hidden lives of ordinary things explains how recipes unite us, contain lessons about hospitality and can be a signature as individual as fingerprints.
Mushrooming: The Joy of the Quiet Hunt – An Illustrated Guide to the Fascinating, the Delicious, the Deadly and the Strange by Diane Borsato, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid (Douglas & McIntyre)
Foraging for wild mushrooms is more popular than ever, making this artful compendium (by a Guelph naturalist and educator) on the texture, smell, taste and edibility of 120 fungi found in the northern hemisphere an essential companion.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings edited by John Lorinc (Coach House)
From ravioli and shumai to gyoza and perogies: Dumplings are a nearly universal food. This anthology assembles North American writers and their personal takes on the significance (and succulence) of dumplings to their cuisine and culture.
Cocktails, A Still Life by Christine Sismondo and James Waller, illustrated by Todd M. Casey (Running Press)
This book is like wandering through the Old Masters wing in a museum, but will make you much thirstier: Canadian drinks historian Sismondo groups cocktails by occasion and serves up lore alongside the recipes, with lovely oil-painting renderings of each libation.
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Echoes of the Supernatural: The Graphic Art of Robert Davidson by Gary Wyatt (Figure 1 Publishing)
This incredible book spans more than six decades of the respected Northwest Coast artist’s work and career as a key force in the resurgence of Haida culture in the aftermath of colonization.
Art is Life by Jerry Saltz (Riverhead Books)
Two decades of the New York magazine senior art critic’s most upbeat and celebratory interviews, reviews and essays are collected here.
Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music edited by Mary-Dailey Desmarais, et al. (ACC Art Books)
The beautifully illustrated catalogue for the first multimedia exhibition devoted to the sign, symbol, and role of music in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work, currently on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and organized with the Musée de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris includes rarely-seen photographs and images.
We Were Here: Sexuality, Photography, and Cultural Difference by Sunil Gupta (Aperture)
Alongside a selection of his most influential images of social and political commentary, the India-born, Canada-raised, Britain-based photographer and activist shares his writings on themes of migration, race and queer identity, be it on the AIDS crisis or the Black Arts Movement.
Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances edited by Vivian Li, et al. (Dallas Museum of Art)
Seventy of Wong’s intimate landscape feature in this overview of the short but celebrated career of self-taught Canadian artist, who died by suicide in 2019, along with five essays of new scholarship on his unique visual language and a selection of his own writings.
Piet Mondrian: A Life by Hans Janssen (Ridinghouse)
The first fulsome biography of the artist to be published in English is long overdue but worth waiting for: It’s by the late curator of the Kunstmuseum Den Haag (home to the largest collection of his works) and offers new insight into the Dutch modernist.
In the Black Fantastic by Ekow Eshun (The MIT Press)
Based on the first British exhibition dedicated to the work of imaginative Black artists (such as Nick Cave and Kara Walker) who incorporate fantasy, myth, sci-fi folklore and Afrofuturism to push boundaries and reimagine identity.
Alex Katz: Gathering by Levi Prombaum, et al. (Guggenheim Museum)
The full breadth of the figurative artist’s eight-decade career of social scenes, portraits and landscapes is captured in this volume to accompany the career retrospective currently staged at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
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Tegan and Sara: Modern Heartthrobs by Melody Lau (Invisible Publishing)
This appraisal of the Canadian songwriting sister duo emerged as underappreciated queer forces in modern pop makes an ideal companion to watching High School, the Prime Video adaptation of their memoir.
Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith (Roc Lit 101)
In her autobiographical account, the noted pop and hip-hop culture chronicler appraises Black women’s music as the foundational story of America through a blend of music history, reportage and memoir.
Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamer: The Guitarist Who Changed the Sound of American Music by Philip Watson (Faber & Faber)
Lauded as the definitive biography of the influential Grammy-winning musician, this is a deep and detailed examination of Frisell’s talent and creative temperament.
What’s Good: Notes on Rap and Language by Daniel Levin Becker (City Lights Books)
Each short but dense chapter in this entertaining analysis is built on a different lyric deconstructing the verbal artistry of rap and combines scholarship (on pattern recognition, say, or tonal modulation) with love of the art form.
Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs by Greil Marcus (Yale University Press)
Through the digressive study of seven Dylan songs, Marcus’s fourth book on the songwriter imparts his vast knowledge of the traditions the work emerges from, making this essential read as much about lost histories (American, musical) as the elusive troubadour himself.
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From Underground Railroad to Rebel Refuge: Canada and the Civil War by Brian Martin (ECW Press)
The award-winning Canadian journalist’s well-researched account of Canadians’ involvement in the American Civil War includes the oft-covered role in shelter and safety, but also the lesser-known history of how 20,000 went south to take up arms on both sides of the conflict, and how Canada was a Confederate base and refuge during and after that troubled time.
It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic by Jack Lowery (Bold Type)
Through interviews with members and visual analysis, the author looks back at how advocacy and community groups like ACT UP’s Gran Fury collective galvanized and used art as a political tool against misinformation and systemic oppression during the early days of AIDS activism, and considers the parallel techniques of the COVID-19 pandemic.
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild (Mariner Books)
A grim (but ultimately hopeful) account of how American democracy survived the dark period between 1917 and 1921 when racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and dangerous white nationalism swelled following the Great War.
Geography is Destiny: Britain and the World, a 10,000-Year History by Ian Morris (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Remarkably, the vast timeline of Western European history and intrigue fits neatly between two covers in this authoritative take that examines Britain’s place in the world since rising waters began separating the Isles from the continent.
The Making of Oliver Cromwell by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press)
This vivid recreation of the 17th century English politician’s military campaigns and political strategy is an account that many are praising as a major new interpretation of one of history’s more complex and fascinating heads of state.
The Great Air Race: Death, Glory, and the Dawn of American Aviation by John Lancaster (Penguin Random House)
Expert descriptive minutiae, by a former Washington Post foreign correspondent, dramatically recounts the 1919 transcontinental race, whose failures and successes marked a new age in flight.
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Taming the Potted Beast: The Strange and Sensational History of the Not-So-Humble Houseplant by Molly Williams, illustrated by Ellie Hajdu (Simon & Schuster)
This botanical romp traces both the cultures houseplants came from and the emergence of a plant-loving bourgeoisie during the Industrial Revolution (with the Victorian craze for ferns), with tips and projects to try.
Floppy Disk Fever: The Curious Afterlives of a Flexible Medium edited by Niek Hilkmann, et al. (Onomatopee)
This book probes the global subculture still enthusiastic about the retro, not-quite-obsolete medium.
The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants by Karen Bakker (Princeton University Press)
Nature lovers will delight in the UBC geography professor’s chronicle of the emerging technologies tuning us into a new world of non-human sound and conversation.
Science Illustration. A History of Visual Knowledge from the 15th Century to Today by Anna Escardo, et al. (Taschen)
A treat for the eyes and the mind, this well-chosen assortment illuminates the insight into the importance of pictorial process in discoveries by thinkers like Albert Einstein (a 1905 sketch of a puzzle game from his relativity notebook) and Galileo (watercolour illustrations of the moon based on viewings with his 1609 telescope).
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Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller (Scribner)
Critics are calling this contender for best business book of the year a non-fiction thriller that uses the vital role played by computer chips to make sense of the current state of things.
Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century by Helen Thompson (Oxford University Press)
This stimulating attempt gives context for the decline of social-democratic parties with perspective on how oil and gas, economics and democracy are related, and how resource dependency affects decision making and monetary policy.
The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher (Little, Brown)
Fisher, a New York Times investigative reporter, pens an ultimately devastating account of the allure of social media, and the ways Big Tech’s powerful algorithms and design shape our engagement, experiences and behaviour (and vice-versa).
Slouching Toward Utopia: An Economic History of the 20th Century by J. Bradford DeLong (Basic Books)
One of the world’s leading economic historians charts the growth of material wealth from 1870 up to the recent past, and looks at the socio-political upheavals it has caused.
For Profit: A History of Corporations by William Magnuson (Basic Books)
This thought-provoking title a must-read for skeptics: Magnuson, a professor of corporate law shows that, once upon a time, corporations used to benefit society – not just shareholders – and argues that enterprise should return to that spirit of civic virtue.
How to Listen: Discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication by Oscar Trimboli (Page Two)
We listen at 400 words a minute but think at 900, according to the research found in this insightful and practical book by the leading global authority on listening, which includes exercises and strategies on how to slow down and increase one’s ability to listen deeply.
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A Brief History of Equality by Thomas Piketty and Steven Rendall (Belknap Press)
Compared with his monumental runaway hits on capitalist economics, Piketty’s slim manifesto seems modest. Its brevity belies its scope: a sustained and sweeping argument and optimistic blueprint for easing global inequality.
Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy by Joan Donovan, et al. (Bloomsbury)
Online culture may change dramatically, what with Elon Musk tanking Twitter, so this look at the internet’s exponential growth and unchecked power of bad actors shaping online discourse is more relevant than ever.
How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future by Maria Ressa (Harper)
Amal Clooney introduces the memoir of 2021 Novel Peace Price co-winner (for her work defending freedom of expression and democracy) Ressa, whose courageous life story should also serve as a call to arms for the rest of us.
Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion by Gabrielle Stanley Blair (Workman)
The Mormon mother of six and co-founder of popular parenting website expands on her 2018 viral Twitter thread about men being responsible for all unintended pregnancies. She flips the script on the abortion question with a practical and persuasive (and often funny) 28-point argument.
They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent by Sarah Kendzior (Flatiron Books)
The reporter and co-host of the Gaslit Nation podcast has been called “the Joan Didion of Missouri” and her latest – on the consequences of disinformation – is a powerful and urgent appeal to wake up.
A Message from Ukraine: Speeches, 2019-2022 by Volodymyr Zelensky (Crown)
As Ukraine continues to defend itself against Russian aggression, this book brings together 16 of its president’s orations, from his inaugural address to the Ukrainian Parliament to his most recent war speeches, with proceeds benefitting United24, a donation initiative for Ukraine.
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Worn: A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser (Pantheon)
In this epic social history, five primary materials – linen, cotton, silk, synthetics and wool – weave a rich and sprawling exploration of the clothes we wear and will change the way you think of fashion.
Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History by Vikki Tobak (Taschen)
Over-the-top is an understatement when it comes to the bling images captured by top photographers of the past 40 years in this coffee-table stunner that documents how hip-hop transformed the jewellery industry (it’s got everything from Run-DMC’s gold Adidas pendants to essays by LL Cool J and A$AP Ferg).
A Visible Man: A Memoir by Edward Enninful (Penguin Press)
The editor-in-chief of British Vogue takes stock of his career in fashion, revisits his childhood in Ghana and finding his voice as a champion of diversity as he rose in the media ranks and broke barriers.
The Lady Di Lookbook: What Diana Was Trying to Tell Us Through Her Clothes by Eloise Moran (St. Martin’s Griffin)
There was so much unsaid by Princess Diana yet she spoke volumes through her clothes, and this book is the secret decoder ring to keep within reach, especially while binge-watching (and rewatching) the past couple of seasons of The Crown.
Shocking: The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli by Dylis Blum, et al. (WW Norton)
The uncanny of surrealism is everywhere again, making the sketches, perfume bottles and fashion designs of legendary Italian couturière all the more relevant; in this must-have retrospective, they’re presented alongside work by collaborators and artistic peers such as Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray and Salvador Dali.
Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse edited by Clarissa M. Esguerra, et al. (DelMonico Books)
This book about the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen interprets his design process through juxtaposition with the related artworks that were his diverse sources of inspiration.
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The Creative Lives of Animals by Carol Gigliotti (NYU Press)
This broad survey of creative animal behaviour makes a compelling case that animals of all types (from insects to mammals) are capable of behavioural innovation and provides artists insight into their own creativity.
The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care by Rina Raphael (Henry Holt)
A sharp and just-snarky-enough investigation into how self-care, “clean” living and pseudoscience seeped into the mainstream and have been commodified by lifestyle capitalism.
How to Live with Objects: A Guide to More Meaningful Interiors by Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer (Clarkson Potter)
Think of this as the manual that fleshes out Marie Kondo’s vague “spark joy” edict: It’s a workbook for identifying objects by four categories (handmade, sentimental, contemporary and vintage) that then guides you through the process of incorporating them into your space.
Shopomania: Our Obsession with Possession by Paul Berton (Douglas & McIntyre)
Fun to browse and arranged like a dictionary of new retail-consumerism vocabulary, this handbook gets at the emotional and psychological roots of acquisitiveness and offers a path to better decisions in our shopping habits.
My Hygge Home: How to Make Your Home a Happy Place by Meik Wiking (Abrams)
The author of the wildly bestselling Little Book of Hygge takes a more in-depth and instructional tack to sharing the Danish design principles.
The Future Is Now: Solving the Climate Crisis with Today’s Technologies by Bob McDonald (Viking)
The science commentator (and long-time host of the CBC’s Quirks & Quarks) pens a refreshingly solutions-based examination of alternate-energy sources and the green-technology innovations that humans can use to save the planet.
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Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson (Harper)
These Hollywood scholars have assembled what is arguably the most comprehensive, gossipy and insightful oral history of Tinseltown ever made.
Sofia Coppola: Forever Young by Hannah Strong (Abrams Books)
This survey takes a thematic approach to Coppola’s work, featuring Q&As with collaborators such as cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd and muse Kristen Dunst.
Spike Lee: Director’s Inspiration by Spike Lee, Bill Kramer, et al. (DelMonico Books)
A tour of Lee’s personal archives includes objects, posters and ephemera (including the Sal’s Famous Pizzeria shirt he wore in masterwork Do the Right Thing).
Regeneration: Black Cinema,1898-1971 (Academy Museum)
Like the landmark exhibition of Black contribution to the cinema arts at the Academy Museum, this catalogue is organized into thematic sections to cover early cinema, race films, music and cinema, stars and freedom movements (it also has an interactive website,
The Feminist Film Guide by Mallory Andrews (Smith Street Books)
Anyone interested in movies that pass the Bechdel Test (in which two women talk to one another about something other than a man) will find plenty of new selections to add to their Letterboxd in the 100 picks (each with analysis) curated by Canadian cultural critic Andrews.
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